How do Charleston County's water parks keep you safe? What do they do when it storms? With the parks opening this weekend, we thought we'd share 10 things you might not know.
1. Savings galore
General admission is $19.99 (Whirlin' Waters), $11.99 (Splash Zone) and $7.99 (Splash Island). However, there are lots of discount options. For instance, Charleston County residents are charged less, as are children under 48 inches tall and seniors over age 60. Admission also drops after 3 p.m. weekdays. Children 2 and under are admitted free at all three parks.
Additionally, several options in the season-long Splash Passes are available. The parks accept Greenbax for admission, and groups get discounted rates by organizing their trip in advance.
Extra Value Days are available weekly. These are Military Monday (discounts with military ID), Two for Tuesdays (two general admissions for the price of one) and Wet and Wild Wednesdays (Greenbax admission half off).
For all the rates for the different parks, visit www.splashparks.com.
2. No drought here
Splash Island uses about 150,000 gallons of water per season; Splash Zone about 450,000 gallons; and Whirlin' Waters about 1.25 million. That's a total of 1.85 million gallons of water. It's all recycled and filtered at a rate of about 12,000 gallons every minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the open season.
At Whirlin' Waters and Splash Zone, the recycled water is used within the parks. At Splash Island, it's used for irrigation of the water park turf.
3. Keepin' it clean
All those pools and slides might seem like the perfect place for bacteria to grow. However, to combat any possible problems, Whirlin' Waters uses 28,000 pounds of chlorine per year, Splash Zone 10,000 pounds and Splash Island 4,000 pounds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to avoid water illnesses:
--Don't swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
--Don't swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
--Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
4. Safety first
Whirlin' Waters employs 100 lifeguards, and Splash Zone and Splash Island have a total of 50 more. The guards, who must be at least 16 years old, are certified each year through the Starfish Aquatics Institute, which has a program geared specifically toward water-park lifeguards, and continue to train throughout the season. The lifeguards also are certified in CPR/AED and first aid.
5. Millions served
Through 2010, the three water parks have had 3,617,413 visitors. Whirlin' Waters has had 1,467,383 guests since opening in 2001; Splash Zone has seen 1,403,384 folks since 1995; and Splash Island, which opened in 1994, has had 746,646 visitors.
6. Rainy day blues
If it storms, the parks are closed. The good news is, when the park has to be closed for an hour or more, it's declared a rain day and visitors can come back another day at no charge as long as they bring their receipt from the rain day.
Parks can be reopened if the weather clears and time permits.
7. Keep an eye on that toddler
It might be annoying when the pools are closed on a hot, sunny day, but it's for your safety.
"Pools are closed when we discover a UFO (unidentified floating object)," says Wannamaker County Park/Whirlin' Waters General Manager Edmonds Brown.
The object is immediately removed and the water tested for bacteria content, he says. If it is determined that the bacteria level is normal, the pool is reopened. If the bacteria level is above normal, the pool will remain closed until it returns to normal. Because the pool water is constantly being recycled and filtered, it doesn't take long for the bacteria levels to normalize, he says.
Don't take a chance on being the parent whose kid causes the pool to close. Swim diapers are recommended for babies and toddlers (and are sold at the parks). Diaper-changing areas also are available.
The CDC says parents should change their babies' diapers every 60 to 90 minutes and warns that "even though swim diapers and swim pants may hold in some feces, they are not leak proof and can still contaminate the pool water."
To help keep germs out of the pool:
--Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear, "I have to go," may mean that it's too late.
--Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
--Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.
8. When to go
As you might imagine, the busiest day of the week at the parks is Saturday.
Tuesday, when the parks offer two-for-one general admission, are the second busiest day. Memorial Day and Labor Day also are busy, but the busiest day all summer is generally July 4.
9. The biggest of them all
At 15 acres, Whirlin' Waters is the largest of the three parks. Its Big Splash Tree House is the largest children's play structure (wet or dry) in Charleston. It has 66 interactive play elements, including pinwheels, troughs, slides, jets and waterwheels. The giant bucket at the top dumps 1,000 gallons of water on bathers.
10. Have a picnic
You can't bring your own food and drinks into the parks, but that doesn't mean you have to starve. Each of the parks has a snack bar where you can get everything from chips and fruit bowls to grilled chicken sandwiches and cheeseburgers.
If you prefer, you can have a picnic outside the park gates. Just be sure to get your hand stamped when you leave so you can get back in.
If you go
Charleston County's water parks open for the season Saturday and will be open weekends only until the end of the month. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark at North Charleston Wannamaker County Park opens daily May 30. Splash Zone Waterpark at James Island County Park opens daily May 23. Splash Island at Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands County Park opens daily June 3.
They will be open daily until Aug. 14, and then only Saturdays and Sundays until the last day of operation, Labor Day (Sept. 5).
Visit www.splashparks.com or call 795-4386.